British Columbia

Vancouver homeless count reveals 10-year high

The City of Vancouver's most recent homeless count shows the highest number of people without a home in 10 years — despite the mayor's promise to end street homelessness by 2015.

City says it needs more help from provincial and federal governments to end homelessness

The City of Vancouver's recent homeless count shows an increase in people without a home. (CBC)

The City of Vancouver's most recent homeless count shows the highest number of people without a home in 10 years — despite the governing municipal party's promise to end street homelessness by 2015. 

450 volunteers perform the count over a 24-hour period. 

According to a staff report, there were 1,847 people without a place to live when the count took place in March — 101 more people than the last count in 2015, or a six per cent increase.

Key findings include:

  • 1,308 homeless people were in shelters.
  • 539 living on the street.
  • 61 per cent had been homeless for less than a year.
  • 78 per cent of unhoused people face physical and or mental health issues.
  • 38 per cent Aboriginal (vs. 2.5 per cent of Vancouver overall).
  • 76 per cent men.

Campaign promise

Homelessness was a major part of Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson's Vision Vancouver campaign when he ran for his position in 2008. At the time, he promised there would be no homeless people on city streets by the end of last year.

"We worked very hard at it. No city in Canada has done as much in the past few years to tackle homelessness," Robertson said.

"It's a failure of our whole system. When all three levels of government can't get it together to solve homeless that is a failure in our society."

Robertson blamed the provincial and federal governments, although he did refer to an additional 1,500 units of social housing created through B.C.

"Unfortunately we don't have enough support from the B.C. and federal governments to eliminate homelessness on our streets," he said. "We're not going to give up on it though."

Affordability gap

Vision Vancouver Coun. Kerry Jang said the report revealed a new generation of people growing up on the streets.

"The drivers to homelessness across our province haven't changed," he said.

"Part of the issue of course is the affordability gap has dramatically shifted in the last few years. Welfare rates haven't gone up but the cost of living has." 

Jang also referred to youth aging out of foster care with no support and people released from jail and recovery homes with nowhere to go as more contributing causes. 

More cooperation needed: opposition

But NPA Coun. George Affleck said the city can't just put the blame on other levels of government. 

"Let's sit around a table and talk about how we can do this together," Affleck said.

"Let's ask the mayor of Vancouver to take a leadership role on that as opposed to pointing fingers at the provincial and federal governments."

In February the city offered $250 million in land in exchange for $500 million in social housing.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was recently elected on a promise to kick-start the Canadian economy by spending up to $60 billion over the next ten years on infrastructure projects.

With files from Belle Puri